Newcastle United, Manchester City and the media
World War 1 saw a paradigm shift in battlefield tactics. In the early days belligerents used 19th century strategies against 20th century weapons. Heavy artillery would wipe out hundreds of thousands of men that marched into the bullets under the orders of their leaders.
They didn’t learn fast either, there were months of battles with massive losses before trench warfare (hiding from the bullets) was pragmatically embraced as the more tactically astute, though dispiritingly ineffective approach.
Manchester City today represents a paradigm shift in world football. Other clubs have had plenty of money to spend of course, but they are the first where it has been literally no object. In every position on the field, among coaching staff, facilities and academy everything is the best that money can buy.
They are, as a result, on course to break all the records:
Points in a season (2.7per game so far, Chelsea 04/05 managed 2.5)
Biggest title-winning margin (16 points ahead now, Man U 99/00 won by 18)
Most wins in a season (85% win percentage, Chelsea 16/17 won 79%)
Most consecutive wins (18)
Most goals scored in a season: (2.9 per game so far, Chelsea 09/10 managed 2.7)
Best goal difference in a season: (2.18 per game so far, Chelsea 09/10 got 1.87)
For most clubs, facing Man City is like taking on the heavy artillery with bayonets.
Leicester City, Champions of England just two years ago got tonked 5-1 off Manchester City at the weekend. Missing from the analysis I saw of the game was any of the vitriol aimed at Newcastle United for losing one nil to Pep’s boys earlier in the season.
Leicester hardly ran willingly into the bullets either. They played the game with 5 at the back, had only 30% of possession and just 2 shots on target, but they made more of an effort at counter-attacking the champions elect in the first half than Newcastle had. Indeed they equalised, which United failed to do. But is equalising then conceding another 4 more excusable than Benitez’s less adventurous team going into the last 10 minutes with at least a possibility of getting something from the game? At 1 behind faster players were brought of the bench and a concerted effort was made to break and cause damage.
No team that has played Manchester City twice this season has achieved a better goal difference than Newcastle. Obviously a better GD is disappointingly scant reward and deserves no praise compared to those teams that actually won points. However, it tells you something that Rafa managed to keep things so tight that no other team so far has stayed closer over 180 minutes, but got most criticism for it.
Much of the bile Newcastle received stemmed not only from the fact that what we did was so effective, but also that it just fell short of being enough to gain any points. If we had tried to break more frequently earlier in the game and been steam-rollered by four or five like others have been, then justice would have been seen to prevail and the air time would have gone to gushing over Man City goals. If we’d nicked a point like Burnley and Palace the tactics would have been justified and the upset billionaires would have been the story rather than the tactics used to cause it.
When a team with great attacking players like Liverpool stand toe to toe with City it can lead to a great game like the one they won 4-3 recently. It can also lead to a five nil drubbing like they suffered earlier in the season. As much as I’d like to see Newcastle and others take this sort of risk I can only envisage more and more clubs taking to the trenches up against such a ferocious, never seen before, onslaught.
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